Pradhan Mantri Sangrahalaya: Why is the family sulking
Just like the Swachhta project, buildings of toilets, reviving the glory of Kashi and air connectivity to remote areas, the first thought that comes to mind on seeing the newly inaugurated Pradhan Mantri Sangrahalaya is 'why wasn't this done till now'? And the question stares you in the face again and again as you move from one gallery to another. The project which took two-odd years to complete seems to be the work of a lifetime.
It is indeed no small feat for the research team of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), who slogged day and night, working on multiple fronts, to have researched on the background, the personal struggles, the achievements, the controversies and the various chapters in the life and career of each Prime Minister, and then showcase them in the museum in a people-friendly manner.
The challenges were manifold. First, one could not miss out on any of the important milestones associated with the particular PM. Second, when featuring any of the adverse moments, one had to be sensitive to the legacy and the sentiments of everyone involved. And yet history must be presented in its right perspective and not brushed under the carpet. Then there was the absence of enough research material in the case of some prime ministers too.
And yet the NMML team came out with a mega project which can overwhelm any visitor who comes here. Such is the grandeur of the new museum.
In fact, it is miles away from the typical image of a museum that we have grown up with. The only way to describe the Sangrahalaya is, it is 'alive'. It is not just a collection of inanimate objects associated with the persons or the period. Though there are invaluable memorabilia of each prime minister donated by their families. But the museum essentially is like a journey one takes along with each of the prime ministers. It is almost an 'exploratory' experience, a dive into the recent past. And yes, it is HUGE. In the last few days, all the visitors I met at the venue and I spoke to on phone admitted that they were unable to see all the forty-three galleries.
The place has something for people of each age group and segment. Children and adolescents could be seen squealing with delight as they did their 'Walk With PM' tango. A young lady was narrating how the photo she got clicked in the 'photo with PM' section landed on her email inbox within thirty seconds of clicking the shot. Someone said this was not just any 'audio-visual'. It was audio-visual of a different level altogether.
It is not all photos, visuals, holograms and fun though. This is the only place in the country where one will find, under one roof, research material, documents, written evidences, records of correspondence and overall perspective on every significant chapter of recent history. It will give a peek into the thoughts, challenges and conflicts faced by the men and the woman who shaped India's destiny in the crucial seven decades following our independence. It doesn't side step the dark moments. Rather, it looks at them holistically.
No wonder the family members of more than one ex-PM were overwhelmed and tears flowed from their eyes as they saw their 'own' find their rightful place in the collective memory of the nation. The kin of PV Narasimha Rao, Chandrashekhar and Ch. Charan Singh were reportedly awe struck by the granduer and the scale of the project.
Which brings me back to the original question? Why wasn't this done before? It is difficult to the put the answer in words. Perhaps we Indians do not question the status quo until forced to do so. Perhaps we were satisfied with seeing one family capture our mind space for too long and thus forgot to question 'what about the others?' But in the process we forgot the damage we were doing to the future generations who would find very little on record, even in the nation's capital, to tell them about the legacy of all our prime ministers and through them what all the country went through.
That Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son-daughter gave a no-show to the event only lends credence to the allegations of the critics that the 'family' considers ruling India its right and cannot see anyone else at the helm.
Even if that may not be true, staying away from the event when one is in town only gives the impression of a sulking, petulant child who will not join the game unless played by his rules. Paradoxically, three of the fourteen prime ministers in the museum belong to Sonia Gandhi's own family.
(Smita Mishra, Advisor, Prasar Bharati)
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